What Is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)?

What is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)? When does this happen in your life? What does it feel like? What are some causes? When does it show up? How does it affect us? What are the results of this? Lets YAC about it!

what is post traumatic stress disorder

Defined by the Mayo Clinic:
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that's triggered by a terrifying event — either experiencing it or witnessing it. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event.

So.. What Does This Mean?

Great question. PTSD comes in all different shapes and sizes and can affect people from all walks of life at all ages. Yes, even children can experience PTSD and often they exhibit different symptoms so it's important to read on and recognize what those are. PTSD is your brain's long-term response to an event or situation that was distressing, disturbing, life-changing or catastrophic. It doesn't always pertain to soldiers or people involved in a war, nor does it always have to do with physical or sexual violence. Trauma can happen to anyone, but what makes PTSD different is that after at least a month or maybe even longer, normal trauma symptoms would subside whereas someone with PTSD continues to experience symptoms that impact their daily lives. 

What Causes Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?
What makes this mental illness a little different than many others is that it's generally caused by an event, whether you personally experience it, witness it or were involved in some other capacity. However, there are other environmental and inherited factors such as having a family history of anxiety and depression, the way your body responds to stress, and your general temperament that can impact whether you experience or are diagnosed with PTSD.

What Are The Symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?
Symptoms for PTSD are broken down into four main categories and in order to be diagnosed with this disorder, according to the DSM-5, you must experience a specific amount of each for at least one month; one intrusive symptom, one avoidance symptom, two arousal symptoms, and two changes in mood and thinking. There are other physical symptoms that have been recorded however they don't pertain to the diagnoses in the DSM-5.

Intrusive Thoughts
  • reliving the event through flashbacks
  • distressing dreams or nightmares about the event
  • recurring memories that won't leave your mind no matter how hard you try
  • avoiding people, places, activities, objects, and situations that bring on distressing memories
  • avoid remembering or thinking about the traumatic event
  • resist talking about what happened or how they feel about it
Changes in Emotional Reaction (also called Arousal Symptoms)
  • easily startled or frightened, having a guard up, feeling jumpy
  • self-destructive behavior
  • troubles sleeping or concentrating
  • angry outbursts or aggressive behavior
  • negative reactions when talking about a traumatic event
  • feeling guilty or shameful
Changes in Mood + Thinking
  • negative thoughts about yourself, other people or the world
  • hopelessness especially about the future
  • lack of memory, especially in relation to the traumatic event
  • hard time maintaining relationships
  • detached from family or friends or activities you used to enjoy
  • feeling dissociated or emotional numb

Physical Symptoms

  • sweating, shaking, headaches, dizziness, stomach problems, aches and pains, and chest pain
  • weakened immune system meaning more susceptible to infection
  • tiredness and fatigue

Symptoms for Children

  • extreme separation anxiety - usually from parents.
  • reenactment of traumatic events
  • phobias unrelated to the event i.e. being scared of monsters
  • regression in skills such as potty training
  • problems sleeping or nightmares, not necessarily related to the event
  • irritability and aggression
  • aches and pains
    How Is It Treated?
    A combination of medication and psychotherapy or talk therapy is proven to be most beneficial when dealing with PTSD. Let's start with the different types of therapy; Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) can help to retrain your brain by recognizing the ways and patterns in which your brain is negatively thinking about the incident and how it's affecting you. Exposure Therapy, which is pretty much exactly how it sounds, by facing painful situations or memories to learn how to cope or understand how they're affecting you. Another kind of therapy is getting a lot of attention lately and that's Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), it combines exposure therapy with guided eye movements to help you process and change how you react to traumatic memories. Since other mental illnesses can tag along with PTSD like anxiety and depression, often medication is offered along with talk therapy to mitigate some of those symptoms. Anti Depression and Anti Anxiety medication may be recommended or discussed with your doctor. There are also many other natural and herbal treatments that are proven to be helpful for coping with PTSD, we always advise talking to a doctor before introducing any sort of treatment. 

    Let's YAC About It!
    It's time to break down the barriers and end the stigma surrounding mental health. If you live with mental illness or just want to chat, our comments and inboxes are always open. We strongly believe in the value of sharing our experiences + stories in hopes even one person knows they're not alone. This blog is an introduction to a two-part series, the second part will introduce all sorts of resources and ways to find the help you need. Thank you again for everyone who got to this point- and again, don't be afraid to YAC about it!
    1. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) - Diagnosis and treatment - Mayo Clinic. (2019). Mayoclinic.org. Retrieved 6 November 2019, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/post-traumatic-stress-disorder/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20355973

    2. NIMH » Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. (2019). Nimh.nih.gov. Retrieved 6 November 2019, from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/post-traumatic-stress-disorder-ptsd/index.shtml#part_145373

    3. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) - CMHA National. (2016). CMHA National. Retrieved 6 November 2019, from https://cmha.ca/documents/post-traumatic-stress-disorder-ptsd

    4. A-Z, T., & Grief, T. (2019). What Is PTSD? | Child Mind Institute. Child Mind Institute. Retrieved 6 November 2019, from https://childmind.org/article/what-is-ptsd/

    5. Brazier, Y., & Timothy J. Legg, C. (2019). Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): Symptoms, treatment, and more. Medical News Today. Retrieved 6 November 2019, from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/

    6. Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). (2019). WebMD. Retrieved 6 November 2019, from https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/post-traumatic-stress-disorder#3

    7. What is PTSD? Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Symptoms and Causes. (2019). Psycom.net - Mental Health Treatment Resource Since 1986. Retrieved 6 November 2019, from https://www.psycom.net/post-traumatic-stress-disorder/

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